There’s a tremendous amount of materials development taking place now to protect and improve the performance of the modern solider. One of the materials being actively investigated isn’t new at all, however. It’s wool—the same material used by the Army of the Potomac in the 1860s. The Marine Corps temporarily banned the wearing of synthetic materials by combat troops after soldiers sustained serious burns from clothing that burned, and sometimes melted, fusing to skin. Short-term, soldiers shifted to all-aramid clothing, an expensive and uncomfortable solution. The Army Soldier Systems Center has been developing a family of woolen, flame-resistant woven and knitted fabrics to replace polyester and nylon. The American Sheep Industry Association and the American Wool Council developed two knit fabrics and one woven fabric that are flame retardant. The US Army is current considering a fabric that is a blend of 50 percent wool and 50 percent Nomex, a meta-aramid made by DuPont. Wool improves the comfort and reduces the cost. TenCate Southern Mills received a million dollar order from the US Army to provide Lenzing FR rayon, for the Defender M program in which a fabric with a camouflage print made from Lenzing FR and para-aramid or polyamide. Lenzing FR may also be paired with wool in another program under evaluation.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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